D&D Encounters

March 19, 2010

Having seen coverage of this brand new event on a few blogs, I figured I might as well put my experience out there. If you are unfamiliar with D&D Encounters, it is a weekly event, where anyone can join in with a 1st level character, and take part in one encounter per week. Check out the Wizards website for more details.

I took the opportunity to head out to Markham, Ontario, and join the event happening at Heroes’ World. I brought along two characters, to cover my options: a minotaur barbarian, and a reworked version of Wil Sturm, one of my Characters of the Day. I ended up using Wil, whom I had morphed into a hybrid paladin/warlord, so there would be at least a little healing. And good thing, too. It seemed like everyone and their grandmother had made a melee character. My party of four consisted of a goliath warden (more on him later), a changeling assassin, a human ranger (our only ranged combatant), and my pally/warlord.

The adventure started out as all great adventures do, in a tavern. We were looking for work, and managed to overhear a woman talking to a dwarf and a tiefling about a potential job. They left to discuss it further, and being the awesome humans that we were, the ranger and I kept an eye on them from the door of the bar. Sure enough, it was trouble, as the dwarf and tiefling, as well as some buddies, started mugging the woman. We leapt into action!

And it all went downhill from there. This is what the encounter area looked like: http://twitpic.com/197ti1

And with three melee characters, that bridge was going to get pretty clogged. It is at this point that I want to discuss the goliath warden. Please bear with me as I go off on a bit of a tangent.

The warden was played by a thirteen year old boy, who apparently only played D&D once before, and that was months ago. I am all for teaching new players the game, don’t get me wrong. But it is players like this boy that make me hate “newbies”. He understood the mechanics well enough, but damn, was he disruptive. The DM would barely get to finish a sentence before this kid jumped in with some inane, bound-to-go-wrong idea that just hindered the flow of the game. He was bragging about how he set himself on fire in a previous game, and kept saying he wanted to buy matches and oil this time around. I was very tempted to gag him with my dice bag. If there are any children reading this, or people with children, and you are thinking about learning D&D, I must make one suggestion: keep your damn mouth shut when it’s not your turn.

ANYWAY. The encounter was bogged down by that one rickety bridge that the goliath fell off of, along with a bandit. The ranger pulled his weight by Twin Striking everything in sight. I blew a daily to revive him when he got knocked out by a halfling slinger. The assassin caught on fire a few times, and I had to use a Heal check to bring him back, since I was forced to use my only Inspiring Word on myself.

All in all, it was a relatively enjoyable experience. The DM was a solid, competent DM, though my one complaint is that instead of saying “roll an Athletics/Heal/Perception check”, he would say “roll a d20”, and then leave it to us to go “wait a minute, what am I adding to this? What skill do you want?” I will be going back next week, for sure, and praying to Kord that I don’t get stuck with the goliath child again.

In other news, I will be running a new campaign come April. A few players from my last campaign, and some new folk, will be delving into the city of Springswich. You can follow the action and read up on the world at our Obsidian Portal site. And, if you are interested in play-by-plays of both D&D Encounters, and the upcoming Springswich campaign, follow me on Twitter at @vectorman14.


Character of the Day: Lucas Depthwalker, elf ranger

May 31, 2009

vampire hunterLucas Depthwalker is the opposite of everything you think of when you picture a traditional elven ranger. He eschews the longbow and favours the repeating crossbow. He prefers urban environments over the forests that have forever been linked to his people. He also happens to have worked for every Thieves guild within 100 miles of Fallcrest. Small-time hitman turned fugitive adventurer, Lucas assassinated the wrong person at the wrong time. While between jobs in Fallcrest, he received an unmarked envelope detailing a target in the local labourers guild that had been enfringing on thieves guild territory. Lucas, thinking nothing of the mysterious assignment (he had many such experiences before), stalked his target for days before finally getting the chance to strike. Two bolts to the back, as is his style. But investigating the body revealed the assignment for what it truly was. He had just assassinated the lord mayor’s closest nephew, who was in high standing in the labourers guild. Lucas had arrogantly assumed he was just a nobody noble. A quick look into the source of his assignment revealed a frame job, but he didn’t have the time nor resources to track down who had set him up.

Lucas fled the city, sure of the fact that the authorities would hunt him like a dog. He has taken to the forests once again, hoping to use his urban knowledge for good use in the wilds. He has hooked up with an adventuring party, hoping that the prevalence of such groups in the world would draw less attention to him until he could afford to seek out the one who put him in this miserable position.

The background’s a little weak, but I like the idea of a ranger with rogue-ish talents. I also have never seen a character with a repeating crossbow outside of Warhammer Fantasy.

I’m thinking my next go will be a warforged druid. “Beast Wars”, anyone?

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&DI Character Builder ======
Lucas Depthwalker, level 1
Elf, Ranger
Fighting Style: Archer Fighting Style

Str 17, Con 10, Dex 18, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 8.

Str 17, Con 10, Dex 16, Int 10, Wis 11, Cha 8.

AC: 17 Fort: 14 Reflex: 15 Will: 11
HP: 22 Surges: 6 Surge Value: 5

Nature +8, Stealth +8, Endurance +4, Perception +8, Athletics +7, Thievery +8

Acrobatics +3, Arcana, Bluff -1, Diplomacy -1, Dungeoneering +1, Heal +1, History, Insight +1, Intimidate -1, Religion, Streetwise -1

Level 1: Sneak of Shadows

Ranger at-will 1: Nimble Strike
Ranger at-will 1: Twin Strike
Ranger encounter 1: Singular Shot
Ranger daily 1: Hunt’s End

Repeating crossbow, Hide Armor, Adventurer’s Kit, Climber’s Kit, Handaxe
====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&DI Character Builder ======

Character of the Day: Wil Sturm, human paladin

May 27, 2009

This is what will hopefully be a regular series of posts. The basic idea behind it is I will create and post a fully developed level 1 character, with at least one paragraph of back story. It won’t always be daily, but I’m aiming for three a week. That’s about one every other day.

Usually the character will be based upon a miniature, otherwise it will just be an awesome (in my mind) concept I thought of. To kick it off, meet Wil Sturm, human paladin of Kord, based on the Pentifex Monolith miniature.

pentifex monolith

Wil was born for battle. Born into a family fully devoted to Kord, god of  storms, he was trained from the moment he could walk to uphold the values of the lord of battle. His mentor, the eccentric dwarven cleric Morgran Stonecaller , filled Wil’s mind with the concepts of pride in battle and glory in victory. He gifted the family’s bastard sword to him upon his 18th birthday, and rigorously trained him in its use. Wil seemed ready to take on his duties as a protector of his town, when a strange occurance marked him for greater things.

On one of his regular sojourns into the wilderness with Morgran, Wil was gathering materials for setting up camp. With not a cloud in the sky, divine lightning struck the sword strapped to his back. The weapon was torn from its sheath and embedded into a nearby tree, while Wil himself was thrown to the ground. Amazingly, not a mark was left by the searing lightning. The sword, sparks dancing across the blade, seemed to have become more than just a sword, but upon Wil removing it from the tree, it reverted to its original appearance.

Leaving the town with Morgran and his family’s blessing, Wil now wanders the world on a pilgramage to awaken his blade once more, and determine what exactly Kord has planned for him.

And there you have it. I probably won’t ever use this character, as I am the only person seemingly willing to DM in my group. But I hope the concept inspires something, anything in you.

Stay tuned for my next character concept, what I’m thinking is going to be an elven or eladrin rogue.

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&DI Character Builder ======
Wil Sturm, level 1
Human, Paladin

Str 17, Con 11, Dex 10, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 16.

Str 17, Con 11, Dex 10, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 14.

AC: 10 Fort: 15 Reflex: 12 Will: 15
HP: 26 Surges: 10 Surge Value: 6

Heal +6, Religion +5, Endurance +5, Intimidate +8, Insight +6

Acrobatics, Arcana, Bluff +3, Diplomacy +3, Dungeoneering +1, History, Nature +1, Perception +1, Stealth, Streetwise +3, Thievery, Athletics +3

Human: Human Perseverance
Level 1: Weapon Proficiency (Bastard sword)

Paladin at-will 1: Valiant Strike
Paladin at-will 1: Enfeebling Strike
Human: Holy Strike
Paladin encounter 1: Fearsome Smite
Paladin daily 1: Paladin’s Judgment

Bastard sword, Plate Armor, Heavy Shield, Pouch, Belt (empty), Sunrods (2), Waterskin, Flint and Steel, Flask (empty)
====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&DI Character Builder ======

Well, that was depressing

April 10, 2009

Yep. I did it. I killed Brighter Brightest. The first room of the second level of the Keep was just too much for our heroes. Granted, they were level one, and it was a level 4 encounter. I had such high hopes, as I haven’t been through this level of the keep with any of my groups yet. My regular group I skipped over it, to get to the end, since they were getting a bit bored. My littlest brother’s group hasn’t got there yet.

I’m planning on a homemade adventure for the band’s next characters. Not sure what, yet. I’m probably going to start them at a higher level, to make it more interesting and give them more options.

The last person I expect…

April 1, 2009

Plays D&D. My brother is that person. No, not my 13 year old brother who jumped at the chance to try it out (I’ll post THAT particular story in a post later), but my 19 year old brother who usually spends his time in our home recording studio, hanging out with his band, and playing on the Xbox 360.

About a week ago, the band (my brother and three friends of his) were over, and we were all having dinner. I was explaining the Penny Arcade/PvP podcast to my mom (if you haven’t listened to it, by the way, do so. You can find it in the Podcast section of http://www.wizards.com/dnd ), and jokingly suggested that the band do one. Well, that one innocent suggestion seems to have planted the D&D seed in their brains. We haven’t recorded anything, but they jumped all over creating characters. The bass player even found an old 3.5 name generator online.

Less than an hour later and four trips through the Character Builder, and the Brighter Brightest D&D party was formed. Davian Laughshield, gnome bard, was played by my brother, Derek. Alex, the bass player, took on the role of Adotumal Tarmikos, bugbear warden. The drummer, Ryan, became Riclamin Joysword, eladrin avenger (quite a similar character to Wil Wheaton’s character in the second series of PA/PvP podcasts). Last but not least, the tiefling invoker, Krisrath Trenspatience, is the newest band member, Kyle.

I thrust them into the Keep on the Shadowfell adventure in much the same way as the podcast. Having beaten up on goblins and kobolds for a while on behalf of the people of Winterhaven, the group comes across the keep. Upon entering, a lovely tradition of my groups is upheld. Alex, being the defender, confidently strode into the center of the seemingly empty entrance room… and promptly fell into the pit trap concealed there. I assured him he was not the first, as Thorfin Boatmurdered, dwarven fighter (from my regular Sunday group), and Ragnarok, minotaur fighter (my littlest brother who plays with two friends of his every now and again; I DM, of course) have both fallen victim of that pit.

The rats and goblins were made short work of, and the group carried on into a room being excavated by goblins. After a few falls off of planks and bites from a guard drake, the group found the handy holy symbol (appropriately given to the avenger) and moved on to the secret door they had noticed beforehand.

Successfully sneaking up on Irontooth (in Balgron’s place), the avenger attempted to end his life quickly, but the guards were alerted. A battle followed, and the group narrowly defeated the warriors garrisoned around Irontooth’s quarters. The bard appropriated himself of the magic wand in the locked chest (after smashing it open; the key was on Irontooth’s body), and the group took to the woods to rest for the night.

We’ll be playing again Thursday night, and I’ll hopefully remember to take better notes. If you want to check out the band, go to http://myspace.com/brighterbrightest. They’ll be releasing a new video blog episode tomorrow, with a little bit of D&D thrown in.

Hey, it’s better than more Halo jokes.

DM’s Notes: Character Builder Review

January 30, 2009

On January 27th, Wizards of the Coast release the full version of the Character Builder, available to those with a D&D Insider subscription. I happen to have such a subscription, and I have tried out both the beta version (that only allowed levels 1-3), and the full version. Here’s my review.

The builder allows a player or DM to create a complete character, without having to do all the math involved with a pen-and-paper sheet. It then displays all the info in a standard character sheet format, with power cards automatically created and calculated. At first glance, the system works flawlessly. You simply tell it what you want, and it does it. But that’s where the major usefulness ends.

Having played with it a bit, and read others’ thoughts on the D&D message boards, I’ve begun to like it less and less. While the build process is fine, the character sheet and power cards leave a lot to be desired. There is, simply put, too much information.

For example: I recently created a Dragonborn Swordmage, level 1. At the beginning of the build, it asks you to pick what you want to base your Dragon Breath power on (Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution). Fine, I pick Strength, making sure to assign that ability a decent score at the appropriate stage. I work my way through the process, and finally display the completed character sheet. Looking at the power card for Dragon Breath, I see the big problem. The power is copied nearly verbatim from the Player’s Handbook. This includes the options for the related abilities that I DIDN’T pick. It even includes the Special text, stating that when I create a Dragonborn character, I need to choose one.

Yes, I knew that. Why aren’t you using the ability I picked at the beginning to calculate the attack bonus? It’s flaws like this that make some power cards nearly unreadable. And do we really need a Second Wind and Action Point power card? Either we’ve used them or we haven’t.

Overall, I now greatly prefer a pencil-and-paper sheet. Not only can I include the information I most often use, but I can edit it at my leisure. With the Character Builder, if anything changes, you have to print out a new sheet.

Here are the pros and cons that I have found with the Character Builder:


– Does all the calculations for you

– Includes ALL the rules. No need to jump from book to book, just to make that Bugbear Dark Pact Warlock with magic items from the Adventurer’s Vault

– All things considered, the sheets DO look nice


– Too much info in too little space

– Unnecessary info, or  superfluous text

– The sheets use way too much ink if you’re printing

– During the build process, when picking powers, the bonuses and penalties are spelled out for you. Once the sheet is displayed, they aren’t.

– I seem to be unable to toggle the editing portion of the character sheet that allows me to tweak what attacks/powers are displayed in the first page attack workspace

All in all, I am rather disappointed with the builder. I understand, though, that it is a work in progress, and I really hope that WotC takes the time to perfect it, in order to make it the right program for all users. I recommend giving it a try, even if you don’t have the D&DI subscription.

Tau Progress Report #2

January 17, 2009

I am kicking ass at this so far. Here’s what’s done:

12 Fire Warriors + Devilfish – Done

3 Stealth Suits – Done (but could use a little highlighting on the black areas)

Crisis suit with fusion blaster and flamer – 1/2 done



I picked up some more stuff at the Gameshop: another box of Stealth Suits, the Crisis Commander box, a box of Fire Warriors for my pulse carbine-armed squad, a blister of Pathfinders and one of Pathfinders with rail rifles.

Progress is pretty good so far, if I do say so myself.

And for something different, here are a few shots of my Inquisitor models. There are some interesting stories to go with these guys, which I’ll share in a later post.

Inquisitor Vectrus

Inquisitor Vectrus – This is the guy I usually used. Made from the Arbite judge figure, with a really bad mullet sculpted on. I don’t know how to sculpt.

Preacher Arthur

Preacher Arthur. Straight up Preacher Josef figure with an Ork gun added as a pistol.

Osma, Arco-flagellant

Arco-flagellant Osma. Simple Damien 1427 figure.

Kroot Mercenary

A Kroot Mercenary that I bought at the GW auction at the Eaton Centre in Toronto a while back.

Rogue Trader Threadbare

Rogue Trader. If I recall correctly, his name was Bobbin Threadbare, so named by my buddy who was using him.

Tim the Mutant

Another figure I got at the auction, Tim the Mutant was named after a particularly annoying classmate of mine. He has the distinction of being probably the only character to not know that when you throw a demo-charge, you run after.

I will share more detailed stories in the near future. Back to the painting table!